Rebecca Mick has always wanted to focus on educating others on the world of plastics and their circularity.
With her job at Amcor Ltd. in Neenah, Wis., she has been able to explore that passion and help others know about the value of plastics.
Mick started out as a product development engineer at Bemis Co. Inc. from 2015-17. Since 2017, she has been the technical sustainability lead, and then in 2019, she took on the responsibility of R&D sustainability program manager.
The role of R&D sustainability program manager did not exist before Mick joined the company, so she built this program from the ground up and was able to provide more emphasis on the company's road map to 2025 pledge.
"I love engaging folks and helping them learn more about recycling, because everybody interacts with it in their own kind of life as a consumer," Mick said.
"I find that when I talk to folks in brand companies, or even sometimes in the packaging world, they don't always understand what happens to the packaging after they put it in the blue bin."
Amcor acquired Bemis in 2019. Mick saw this change as a positive and she was able to explore her passion for the environment within this new community.
"At Bemis, they didn't prioritize sustainability as much, whereas Amcor it is a big priority," Mick said. "That's sort of how I got even more involved with sustainability than I was when I was at Bemis."
During Mick's first year at Bemis, she was assigned a global project that involved using manufacturing assets in more than one region. That experience helped her feel confident in taking on the added responsibility of the global R&D function.
"In the end, we were able to show that the concept of sharing assets could be done, but the business never took off like we had hoped," she said. "I learned that overcommunication is necessary to get buy-in, especially when you can't physically be with the global team all the time."
Mick has overseen tracking the progress of Amcor's 2025 pledge for flexible packaging. She is required to do yearly mapping and monitor each region's following of it.
"In that report, we actually do highlight how we're designing our packaging – specifically flexible," Mick said. "We're designing our portfolio to have alternatives that are either recyclable, reusable or compostable."
Mick wants to see the plastics industry expand by educating consumers on how circularity for plastics works and alter the negative perception around plastics.
"Plastics are a valuable part of our economy, and they are too precious to waste," she said. "This is why I am so passionate about designing packaging for recyclability and doing all that I can to help plastics stay in use time after time. The more I've learned about plastics recycling, the more I feel compelled to share with others; I've lectured everyone from my family to my co-workers about how to properly recycle."
Mick graduated with a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from Michigan Technological University then a doctorate in chemical engineering from Illinois Tech.
"I worked with plastics during my Ph.D. and knew just how much value they offered from a material property point of view," Mick said. "I joined Bemis as a product development engineer because I was interested in working in consumer goods, and my plastics background was valuable in helping to make the packaging that protected consumer goods. It wasn't quite where I thought I would land, but I've enjoyed it, especially as my role evolved to help educate and promote more sustainable film design."
Mick is optimistic about the future but does have concerns about the future of the environment. She gets excited when she has the opportunity to work with others through her job and gets to educate people on recycling and packaging.
"It makes me feel like the things that we're doing, you know, there's hope that people will get it and they'll get excited about it, and they'll want to participate even more," she said.
Mick is involved in the Association of Plastic Recyclers as the co-lead for the film technical space and helps steer how film recyclability is approached. She has worked with teams to tackle questions on product residue and recyclability and ways to get film more recycled throughout the industry.
She also works with the U.S. Plastics Pact and is a co-leader on the design for recyclability workstream. She is a part of the Consumer Goods Forum and participates on a couple different working groups for designing flexibles for recyclability or circularity. She sits on committees for the Plastics Industry Association and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition.
Mick is a part of all these efforts because she believes in the importance of collaboration.
"It's important for us all to be collaborating together to make sure that as we're designing these things, and really designing the guidance for recyclability, that we're getting feedback from the full value chain so that we can all be moving forward together," Mick said.